Posts

The Frailty of Merit

 Guest post by Rose Novick Since a wariness of meritocracy is an ongoing concern here at The Sooty Empiric I was excited to hear that my friend Rose had written a short essay on the problem of merit in the Aeneid . I hadn't yet had a classics take on the matter, I was intrigued! And indeed it did not disappoint - the pagan rationalisation of cruel chance, the arbitrary anarchy of events that decides the course of our lives, is a wonderful expression of just that which makes achieving meritocracy so difficult. Since Rose graciously allowed me to post her essay here, without further ado here's her piece The Frailty of Merit . --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- It is in Vergil’s world of incessant divine interference that the problem of induction becomes most acute. Here, even the most securely established regularity may

Thoughts on Nael's Tiger

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  The Tiger The tiger He destroyed his cage Yes YES The tiger is out When he was six years old a little poet called Nael wrote the above poem. It's fair to say that it became something of a smash hit on the internet, and is now regularly reproduced on twitter and tumblr as one of people's favourite recent poems. I love it too! And in this little December blog post I am gonna reflect on what I think draws me to this poem, why to me it is so good. My thoughts were inspired by seeing this  lovely reflection on the poem during my travels across the internet. The author there identifies the following features: the use of caps lock YES creating a nice cadence and gives a sense of euphoria as the tiger bursts free. The theme of freedom and liberation, which lends itself to both a literal reading and also metaphorical readings about oppressed groups rising up. And the sheer simplicity of it - a 12 word poem where one feels not a word is wasted. I like how htey put it: It’s not hard to

Citational Justice

Some musings prompted by  this rather negative take on citational justice literature. In fact (partly for reasons I explain below, and in line with the linked piece) I myself am pretty hostile to the whole notion of citational justice. In any case it feels so self-indulgent as to be immoral for lefty academics to be debating "citational justice" while there are still homeless people. Let's... you know, let's get a grip here? But none the less I am by profession a social epistemologist, and I do think that we learn something interesting about how knowledge is and ought be generated by thinking about what the role and consequences of citational practices are. The linked piece is responding to an argument from Sarah Bond  for more egalitarian citational practices. They take her to be saying that academics should, in order to render our community more just, make conscious efforts to redirect our citations towards people from under-represented groups -- here that's

The Anglo-American Analytic Philosophy Left

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Survey results from here: https://survey2020.philpeople.org/survey/results/all As far as I can tell analytic philosophy for the most part remains a fairly a-political field. At the least, this is what my last little survey  of the prestige journals suggested to me, and I just checked again and it still seems true. None the less, I agree with Brandon Warmke  that there has been something of an "applied turn" wherein there is a shift towards trying to make one's work relevant to non-philosophical concerns somehow, and at least some of this has taken the form of a shift towards socio-political work. I gave my explanation for why I thought this shift was occurring here  -- though see reply here , and I think a recent post at the Splintered Mind  is an attempt to explain basically the same pervasive sense of decline via a different mechanism. As with most academics, philosophers lean left , and indeed per the picture it seems a majority even self-identify as socialist when gi

Science for Subjectivists

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I read this fascinating paper by Greg Gandenberger . It's an argument to the effect that one can give a good Bayesian rationale for, in some circumstances, paying attention to stopping rules. These are rules for data collection, in particular rules which tell you when you have gathered enough data and should stop gathering more. One might compare (and Greg does compare) rules which tell you to stop after some fixed point - say, after one has performed the test on 300 subjects - versus rules which say something like `Keep going until you either run out of money or your data supports your favourite hypothesis to some given degree.' Classical statisticians typically say that for epistemic reasons one needs to pay attention to these rules, whereas Bayesian statisticians argue that one very often need not pay any attention to them (in these cases they are "noninformative"). GG is here to argue that there is a particular class of cases where Bayesians will indeed say you n

Personal Tribute to Charles Mills

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Like many in the philosophical world today I am in dismay at the loss of Charles Mills. I feel compelled to honour him with a public tribute, as he meant more to me than almost anyone else in the profession and I think socialised affection and grief are a fitting response to this sort of tragedy. I'll try and say a bit about why Mills was so special to me personally, but I think that the characteristics I saw in him would be familiar to many who interacted with him. In this way I hope that my idiosyncratic impressions and experiences will give some more general idea of the man we have lost. Professionally - by the time I met Mills he was already an international superstar. His work had long been of interest to black or Africana thinkers, but by the mid 2010s when I got to know him he was well established among the white mainstream of political philosophy. As Mills himself would have been first to point out, there are more of them and they have more money for keynote lectures and

Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will

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I started writing this as a kind of meditation in a notebook, but then I thought maybe it would be interesting to others so I decided to share on my blog. It's my reflections on Gramsci's famous aphorism named in the blog post title - but, while I won't go into depth here, I'll just note that if I were to write reflections on Mark 12:30-31 they would probably be very similar. Nothing profound, but I hope it helps someone nonetheless. Tullio Crali - The Forces of the Bend "Eyyy, I paint'a de race car, it exemplifies'a da ever accelerating forces of de modernity'a and implicitly calls to mind the relentless use of fossil fuels to make that possible'a, mamma mia!" We must always act from a sincere love of our fellows, but never give in to maudlin sentimentality or (worse) facile irrationalism. In theory, so long as one avoids silly ideological tropes , it is not so difficult to keep the two apart. But on a day to day level it can seem very difficu